Everyone back at corners, one up front, disappointing deliveries - your Portsmouth questions answered after defeat at Brighton

As part of a new feature this season, we are asking fans on social media to submit questions they want us to answer in the aftermath of a Pompey result.

Saturday, 19th September 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th September 2020, 12:13 pm

The Blues suffered a 4-0 defeat in the Carabao Cup second round at Brighton on Thursday evening.

The loss to the Premier League side caused plenty of debate – and here is a selection of your questions, along with our response.

Why, when defending a corner, do we bring everyone back in defence - it just invites more opposition players to come up resulting in a crowded box and the usual Pompey panic. Why not leave at least one player up which would not only stop the opposition piling forward in numbers but would also give us a chance of a quick counter if the keeper claims and can release quickly? We just invite pressure - why? (Martin Manning – Facebook)

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This isn't the first time this question has been asked - nor will it be the last, I suspect!

Some managers prefer to have everyone in the box, some leave one or a couple of players up top. I always remember Lee Bradbury often having three attackers on the halfway line when in charge of the Hawks.

Jackett puts a lot of emphasis on set-pieces both attacking and defensively, citing it's how 30-35 per cent of goals are scored.

In the past, he’s said that he first wants Pompey not to concede and believes having as many people back gives teams the best chance of clearing the ball.

Pompey dejected after conceding against Brighton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Then he feels Pompey can still punish teams on the counter-attack if they break quickly and get enough numbers forward.

Pompey hit Brighton on the break in the first half from a corner but Ronan Curtis' pass was blocked when Marcus Harness and John Marquis were in support.

Last season, Gareth Evans also scored at Doncaster when the Blues broke with pace

Are we good enough to avoid relegation? One up front. It's gonna be a hard season. (Dave Jamieson – Facebook)

I'm partial to a throwing a few quid on an outside bet but backing Pompey to be relegated wouldn't be one of them.

Things might not be inspiring and it might be a bit stale around the club at the moment, but this group of players are far too good to be near the bottom.

What’s more, Kenny Jackett has never been relegated during his managerial career - not even from the Championship.

Even when circumstances were difficult at Wolves and Millwall, he kept them in the second tier.

I'd be almost certain Pompey will be in the top 10 come May and they should really be finishing in the play-offs with the squad.

One up front ....why? (Shaw Swanton – Facebook)

Another long-standing question that will understandably continue to be asked if Pompey don’t go on a good run.

The crux of it is that Jackett's system is designed for his wingers to thrive.

Bar Brett Pitman netting 25 times in 2017-18, his wide men have always got the lion's share of the goals.

In 2018-19, Jamal Lowe bagged 17 and Ronan Curtis 12. Last season, Curtis netted 14 and Marcus Harness nine.

An area he’s helped all three is getting across the box when crosses come in from the opposite flank, into the centre or towards the near post.

But there's a case to be made that if Pompey want their wingers to be successful then more of a focal point than John Marquis – who we will come on to in the next question – leading the line is required.

Oli Hawkins did that superbly in 2018-19, especially the first half of the season, and his team-mates enjoyed playing with him.

However, there was a criticism that he didn't score enough, while he lacked the pace to stretch defences. That meant the opposition could push their rearguard higher as they didn't have to worry about Hawkins getting in behind.

For me, Ellis Harrison is a good blend of the two. He's good in the air, selfless and can stretch things. He looks more comfortable in Jackett's system than Marquis.

When is Jackett going to realise Marquis up front on his own doesn’t work? Keeping changing the personnel but keeping the same system clearly isn't the answer. Kenny should change his ways or change his club (Adrian Timms – Facebook)

It's another valid and pertinent question leading on from the last.

In the past two games against Shrewsbury and Brighton, Marquis has simply been starved of service.

In truth, he's not yet hit the heights many expected of him given his goalscoring prowess at Doncaster and the substantial transfer fee he arrived for.

It was interesting Marquis said on the BBC Radio Solent Fans' Forum earlier this month that the system Donny played in 2018-19 when he scored 26 goals wasn't too dissimilar from Pompey's current set-up.

Playing up front on his own isn't something alien to him.

However, Doncaster probably played through the thirds more and the system was tailored more around him scoring goals than the wide men.

It'll be interesting if Michael Jacobs can start supplying the ammunition when he eventually gains his fitness and comes into the side.

Nevertheless, it's been disappointing Jackett's never tried playing Marquis and Harrison in a 4-4-2 formation.

Why can’t anyone beat the first man with a corner/cross? What do we do in training? There’s no plan or pattern to play. When are Bolton, Morris & Williams leaving? They contribute nothing. (@WrightingWayne – Twitter)

I'll answer this in three parts.

1. Thursday night's set-piece delivery clearly wasn't good enough. Pompey knew they wouldn't get too many clear-cut chances from open play and they had to take advantage from dead-ball scenarios after doing well to break Brighton's line.

In his press conference before the game, Jackett admitted for the past year that deliveries have blown hot and cold from corners and free-kicks. The Blues have missed a real set-piece specialist like Dion Donohue was, while Gareth Evans hasn’t always been in the team.

But Jackett believes Jacobs' deliveries will bring a threat and he'll be on duty when in the team.

2. Going down to watch Pompey train at Roko is something we don't get a lot of time to do, unfortunately.

However, the Blues very kindly allow us to attend their pre-season trip away every season and I'm lucky to have gone to Cork and Dublin.

The majority of drills they've worked on during those excursions has been ball work rather than intense fitness synonymous with pre-season.

Various passing drills, set-pieces, mini-games with players in certain areas who can only take one touch etc.

Pompey have looked disjointed attacking-wise in their past two games, especially against Shrewsbury.

They've lacked a natural number 10 to be the conduit between midfielder and attack. Again, that's something Jacobs will be looking to remedy.

3. Not anytime soon. James Bolton would be the first to admit he didn't have his best game against Brighton. But, in fairness, he's someone who needs a sustained run of games to be at his best. Plus he was up against a Premier League side.

Bolton's second choice in the right-back pecking order behind Callum Johnson now, but there will be times when his defensive solidity is needed, while his versatility also helps.

Ryan Williams has two years left on his deal and will play a big part this season. He's got plenty of energy and never stops grafting. The one thing he needs to improve his end product.

Bryn Morris is out of contract at the end of the season but is clearly well rated by Jackett given his recall for the play-offs after a 14-month absence.

I do feel he needs to start offering that bit more in the engine room, though. He's got a great range of passing but Pompey are lacking someone who can drive at defences from deep.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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